The killing of George Floyd has sparked a movement of anti-racist protests across the United States and around the world. In light of this Black Lives Matter movement, Canadians have been discussing forms of institutional racism in our own nation. Archives are not disconnected from this issue. Traditional archives are directly connected to settler colonialism in Canada. White privilege and structural oppression are issues that still exist within archival institutions. According to the 2016 census from Statistics Canada, the archival profession is predominantly white with visible minorities making up only 7% of archivists. The profession has and continues to prioritize white perspectives in their collection practices. This has led to silence and erasure in the archives, which has further marginalized racialized communities from the dominant narrative. In addition to this, archives have historically used racist and problematic language in archival description.
These issues begin in the classroom. In many instances, Library and Information Studies (LIS) programs fail to acknowledge the history and ongoing oppression and marginalization of racialized communities in traditional archives. These programs often perpetuate the myth of “neutrality” within the profession by emphasizing theories and practices that are shaped by white perspectives and worldviews. LIS syllabi rarely include scholarship from professionals that identify as Black or people of colour. Also, these programs often lack anti-racist or anti-oppression frameworks. As a result, these programs do not adequately prepare students to work with records or researchers from racialized communities. In order to dismantle white supremacy within the archival practice, it is imperative that archivists educate themselves on the experiences of people of colour and how to respectfully represent them in the records. Below are two resources I have found that relate to Black Lives Matter and archives.
The Association of Canadian Archivists compiled Resources on Archives, Anti-Racism, and Black Lives Matter. This list touches on the Black lived experience in Canada, the language in archival description, cultural competency, and race in archives. This includes a list of community archives with a focus on Black lives, police violence, and activism.
T-Kay Sangwand, who is a librarian at The University of California, Los Angeles, created a Black Excellence in LIS Syllabus. This was created to showcase Black creators who work in the Information profession or have a LIS degree. The Syllabus includes projects, speeches, publications, blog posts, and resources.
These resources touch on a broad range of topics. If you know of any other resources not included in these listed here, comment below.
The header image is “Marble Village Coloured School,” [ca. 1900] from Archives of Ontario. Reference Code: F 2076-16-5-2